Monday, August 31, 2015

Offline vs Online; Words and Actions

Before I begin, let me say that the friends mentioned in the first part of this blog post are friends I know in my "real" world, offline.

I'm a boring introvert with an odd sense of humor. That's okay. I like my boring self. My extroverted friends love my boringness. Some have said it balances them out. I agree since they also pull me out of my shell sometimes, when it's necessary.

I don't drink nor do I smoke. Never have and probably never will. I have friends who do one or both. I adore them whether they do or don't. They just don't smoke around me and I'm the designated driver when necessary.

I don't cuss. Okay, scratch that. It takes a lot for me to accidentally slip up and cuss. I have friends who swear like sailors. Some apologize after cussing (because they know I don't do it), others don't. I love them all the same and I don't judge them for it.

I consider myself on the conservative side of politics. Some of my oldest friends are diehard liberals. We often find ourselves on opposite sides of issues such as abortion, gay marriage, gun control, immigration, etc. We are still able to push those issues to the side when one of us needs the other.

I consider myself very religious. I have friends who range from even more religious than I am to having no religion nor believing in the existence of God. I veil. I like going to confession. I like Gregorian chant. I love the Mass. I love the Rosary. Some of them don't get it but don't feel the need to question what I choose to believe... or they ask me why Catholics do certain things, but always in a polite, genuinely curious manner. Likewise, I don't sit around and judge them for what they choose to believe or not believe.

I'm not married nor am I in a relationship. I don't have kids. The majority of my friends are married and/or have kids. Very few of us (with most of us in our late 20s to mid-30s) are single. We support each other and don't make the others feel terrible for their vocation or lack-of (for the time being). The singles pray for the married with children and vice versa.

Then we have my online life...

I'm boring. I get called on my being "serious business" and get told to "lighten up" when I don't find something particular funny.

I don't drink or smoke. I get asked what's wrong with me.

I don't cuss. I'm made to feel like there's something wrong with and, erroneously, get accused of judging others for swearing.

I consider myself conservative. I'm not conservative enough for some. I'm too conservative for others.

I'm religious. I veil and therefore I think of myself more pious and superior to others... or so the subtweets say after I post a pro-veiling article. I'm also not religious enough for some. I'm a modernist. Others argue that I'm too religious. I'm a dangerous "trad."

I'm single. Some say I'm single by choice, that I'm a typical Millennial who is selfish and doesn't want to settle down. Others pity me for being over 25 and still single. "Poor, poor girl... it's so hard now that you're 30," they say.

Now, let me ask you a couple of questions: if you had to deal with this on an almost daily basis, which would you prefer? Your offline life or your online life? Probably offline, right? What if your work and education was mostly online? What if you were one of the last of your core group of friends who is still living in California because everyone has moved away... and the internet and social media were one of the best ways you could keep in touch? What if you got online, when you tried to talk to friends you miss seeing, and all you saw were comments about how you're wrong, you're too this, you're not enough that, etc.?

Can I be bold enough to ask everyone to consider my suggestions? Can we all try to be more careful with our words online, especially on social media? Can we all make the effort to cut back on the subtweeting and on judgmental comments? Can we pray for others instead of attacking them?

For the record, this is not me shaming anyone. This is me expressing my thoughts on a trend I've noticed in the past couple of months... not just with myself but with others. It hurts me to see others being hurt by words. You don't have to agree with what I said... but it needed to be said.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Grad School Worries and Academic Pride

Picture courtesy of Ashley Ella Design.
In about a month I start my first quarter of grad school. My school, JP Catholic, runs on a quarter system which I haven't experienced because I've always been on a semester-based academic calendar. I've heard that it's a bit more fast-paced than the semester system but I'm not too worried since I'm only allowed to take two courses this quarter... which I am guessing will be like taking 4 semester courses. Still, it's the "being thrown into a new situation" that is starting to make me a bit nervous.

I'm having those same jitters everyone has on the first day of a new school or job. I'm worried about messing up. When I received my first reading and writing assignment for my Fundamental Theology and Biblical Interpretations course (a little over a month early; thank you, Dr. Barber!) I was equal parts excited and intimidated. They're starting us off with St. Thomas Aquinas' Summa Theologiæ and the Catechism of the Catholic Church. I actually just finished reading through the entire Catechism earlier this summer but I've never really tackled Summa before. I've read bits and pieces (and very few of those) throughout the years but never at the level which I know I will have to for this course. *gulp*

As I was going through the list of questions and textbooks required, little doubts started popping up. "Am I even smart enough for this program?" "Will I be able to retain all the information?" "Will I be an adequate teacher once I finish this program and start working?" "What if I fail again? I haven't been in school for almost a year and the last time I was in school, I had to drop out due to the stress affecting my health." "What if I can't handle the workload again?" There are more questions but you get the gist of it. Oddly enough, all these questions are making me feel better about the situation. Allow me to explain...

I will be the first to admit that I've taken great pride about my academic career... to the point where a trip to the confessional was necessary. As a kid, I was the one who showed off, the know-it-all. I think I just let all the praise about being "smart" go to my head... and no one bothered to correct it. I was a kid, what did I know? While I got a better handle of it as I got older (and I got quieter and more reserved), it was still there in my mind. I took great pride in having graduated high school a year and a half early; in being able to give the valedictorian speech at the graduation ceremony. Though I stunk at math (my academic Achilles heel), I was still able to miraculously passed and graduated from my undergraduate program on the Dean's List.

After years of feeling a little too pleased with myself over my academic career, I got the much needed dose of humility and reality last year. Starting the Communicative Disorders at Utah State last year was exciting and not very nerve wrecking for me. First semester I didn't receive anything belong a B. I was feeling pretty great about myself... and then I didn't even finish my second semester, having to leave a month before it concluded. My health had suffered from me pushing myself beyond my limits. Surprise the "academic Super girl" found her match. I had begun failing exams and I couldn't understand why. I knew the material and I studied hard. I did great with the on-site work with the little kids. Still, it was hard for me to pass the exams. In a weird way, I'm extremely grateful to have gone through all of that because it helped me get rid of that incredibly prideful part of myself.

I think that part of why I'm worried about my potential success (or failure) at JP Catholic stems from what happened at Utah State. I was knocked off my academic high horse but that was one of the best things that could've happened to me. If this is what I want to do with my life (and it is), then I need to approach the rest of my academic career and training with humility. It can't be "look what I can do; look at how smart I am." It needs to be "I'm grateful for what God can do through me for others." I need to take out any selfish thinking... to rid myself of that pride that I held for many, many years.

So, yes, I'm worried about how I'll do, academically. I care too much about it. Although I fought it for so long, I know my passion is teaching others and helping evangelization efforts in any way I'm able to. I gravitate towards putting my efforts towards youth because of how poorly catechized I was and what a terrible path I was going down before I reverted. I want to help prevent that in others. I'm young at heart and I look young enough that they can feel comfortable talking to me or coming to me for advice (or so I've been told).

Of course, I'm going to approach my entire grad program keeping that in my mind. This isn't about me or what I can gain from it (other than the knowledge necessary to help others.) It's going to take a lot of prayer and a lot of revisiting my motives every once in a while. I need to keep myself in check and accountable for my thoughts and actions. :)

Come at me, negative, worrisome thoughts. You'll just remind me that I need to rely on God and to remember that I can't let the pride creep up on me again. :)

That's it for now. I have some errands to run (in 100+ degree weather... oy with the poodles) and other things to do around the house. :D Oh! I'm taking a little break from Twitter for the sake of my sanity. I think everyone (myself included) is burnt out from the craziness of the summer and there's been too much infighting and subtweeting for my taste. I don't know how long the break will last but I'll keep everyone in prayer. :D

As always, thanks for reading and God bless! :D

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

"Are You The Nerd Writer?"

Alternate title: Top 5 Things People Say to Me When They Meet Me Offline.

Since I've met quite a number of online friends (as well people who've read my blog before officially chatting with me) offline recently, I thought it would be fun(ny) to post the top 5 things people say / ask when they meet me offline. Yes, there's a top 5. I've been blogging for almost 8 years so this is over the course of those years. I'll also include my answers so you don't have to ask anymore. ;)

1. "Are you the Nerd Writer?"
I can have a little fun with this because technically there's two "nerdwriters" in Los Angeles. I'm usually the one with "nerdwriter" as the username across multiple social media platforms but there's two of us and sometimes the other nerdwriter beats me to the username. I'm the lady nerdwriter. I personally don't know the dude nerdwriter but I know he lives in L.A. as well. So, yes... and no. Also, most of you don't know what I look like so I can always deny... though I probably won't because that would be lying and I like staying out of the confessional for as long as possible. Also, some of you aren't sure whether to call me Emmy (nickname) or Melissa (actual name): you can call me either. Even my own professors call me Emmy sometimes, depending on the number of Melissas in the class (it was a popular name in the 70s and 80s).

2. "Are you sure you don't want to become a nun?"
I usually get this question at the end of our initial meetings. Yes, I'm sure. It was actually a childhood dream to become a nun. Seriously, ask my godmother and she'll tell you that I would tell people I was going to be a nun when I grew up. I actually still wanted to be one when I reverted in my early 20s but, after discernment, I knew it wasn't my vocation. Sad panda. Belonging to a Third Order will be the closest I get. Also, totally taking it as a compliment.

3. "You're taller than I thought you'd be."
I never know how to take this one. lol. Do I "write"/"sound" short? Is it the Twitter avatar? I'm turning the question back on everyone: why does everyone automatically assume that I'm short? What about me scream "short lady coming through!" online? This amuses me to no end, y'all. Seriously, I will laugh every time I get asked this. For the record, I'm not that tall but I'm a little over 5'7" and depending on the shoes I'm wearing, I can seem taller.

4. "Oh, you're really shy. I thought you were kidding."
Nope, totally not kidding. I warn people ahead of time but few believe me. I know I'm not exactly "shy" online but in person a lot people can be quite surprised at how quiet and reserved I am... at first. I'm like this with everyone unless I've known you for years and a solid comfort level has been established. Also, yes, I am an awkward turtle. I have a weird sense of humor that uses a lot of pop cultural references. My "Emmyisms" will eventually make sense. Only a select few have met with without the shyness or awkward panda-ness. Very, very few.

5. "So do you know... *insert well-known blogger / apologist / Catholic person's name here*?"
I'll usually tell you if I do and/or don't but quickly change the topic. Honestly, I get a little weirded out when someone wants to fangirl/boy over a well-known Catholic "celebrity," especially if I do know them. I don't hide my friendships but I also don't flaunt them. If I can sense something off about the question (like, trying to use me to get to them), I'll politely decline to answer it. I think that, blogging for so many years, people expect me to know a lot of well known people but I really don't because I don't go to conferences and I'm in my own little corner of the internet without really promoting my blog or myself. I like people finding this place on their own or through divine intervention (or a retweet). I'm not trying to make myself visible so I don't seek out those who are more in the public eye. I'm always surprised to hear that people I don't know are reading this blog. I'm friendly -- I don't bite; shin kick but not bite ;) -- but I also don't like saying "Oh yes, I know... x, y, z..." Sorry, y'all.

Maybe one day I'll write a blog about the weirdest questions / things said to me. I've gotten some people I've never met in person trying I set me up with people I don't know or know very little. I've gotten wedding invites... baptism invites... (these last two aren't weird though I usually barely know the person). I have a lot of interesting stories from meeting people from my online social community offline. ;)

Alright, that's it. Shout out to the awesome people I've recently met offline who've inspired this post. ;)

I hope everyone is having a great week thus far. :D

As always, thanks for reading and God bless! :D

Friday, August 21, 2015

Faith Trials: "I Can't" Becomes "I Can" and "I Trust"

I know. It's been a while since my last blog post. As I wrote last time, I've been going through a lot of medical issues. I say "a lot" because it seems like it but, in reality, it's not that much in the grand scheme of things. I unfortunately got a skin infection that spread and it took almost an entire month to go from start to finish... and I'm not done yet since I still have at least one or two more wound evaluations and a 10-day round of antibiotics to get through before I'm (hopefully) all done. Doctors have told me it's been a community thing and I actually found out that it's true. I've had three other neighbors tell me that they've had the same issue.

I've had so many people say, quite pityingly, "Oh, you've suffered so much" yet I don't believe I have. I've had excellent doctors, nurses, and now physical therapists for wound care at great hospitals. My blood work has come back perfect. Yes, terrible acid reflux stinks but that's not unique to me and it's gotten better. Yes, I'm currently slightly underweight from the multiple days that I wasn't able to eat for several hours (13+ hours at the hospital sometimes). I have a fast metabolism so losing weight is easier than gaining it but I can add more calories into my diet and cut back on my exercise for a bit to help the weight gain. I have a roof over my head, food to eat, a bed to sleep in, friends and family who are praying for me... where is the suffering?

Before I go on, let me just give you a brief medical history. I was an extraordinarily healthy child. I rarely got sick. Not even the chickenpox at age 8 kept me down for long. It wasn't until I developed anxiety at 15 that things changed... but I was still healthy. If you didn't know, anxiety can manifest itself in physical symptoms. Heart palpitations, cold sweat, lightheaded/dizziness, stomach issues, lack of appetite, lack of sleep, physical pains in the most random places, extreme fatigue, etc. It doesn't mean you're not healthy; it's just your body reacting to the natural "fight or flight" response that the anxiety triggers. So, sure, I haven't felt 100% all the time because of anxiety but I've been quite healthy for the most part. For some people -- especially the ones who don't have experience with anxiety -- it may seem like I'm "always sick" because the anxiety mimics symptoms that would suggest I'm not well when I really am.

The last time I went through something remotely similar to what I'm going through now was right before my reversion to the faith, 9 years ago this summer. However, unlike the last time, a lot of "I can't" moments have become "I can" and "I trust." 9 years ago all the physical symptoms of anxiety hit me at once and it was something I'd never experienced. Because I was in the hospital so often and the doctors couldn't find anything (nor did they even entertain the possibility of it being connected to anxiety until years down the line), I developed medical PTSD. A lot of my fears about going to the hospital, being sick, and going through pain have been the ones I've had to face this past month. Who wants to go to the hospital 2-3 times a week for the past 3 weeks, even if it's just to get a wound checked? No one. Yet, I've done that and have been okay.

The first time they diagnosed and treated the abscess on my jaw/chin, I shook as soon as I found out they had to do a surgical procedure. I teared up in the minutes leading up to it because of that fear. It was something I'd never experienced. I had one of my rosaries in my hand throughout the entire procedure. Though it hurt so much, I kept telling the doctor continue. By the time the second abscess had ruptured and had to be drained, I was a lot calmer. I didn't cry once, even though the pain was much worse because of the location (chest wall). The doctors and nurses even commented on how I had done "the best" out of the patients they'd seen with abscesses on that particular day (there were 4 of us on one particular day).

I had no real moment of anxiety or even panic attack beyond the first trip to the E.R. I was naturally, occasionally nervous, sure, but not overly anxious. The days I knew I was in for a world of pain (when they repacked the wounds), I had no anxiety despite knowing what I was to endure. I prayed the Rosary and other prayers for everyone in the E.R., for the doctors and nurses, etc. I joked with the nurses and doctors. I read books. I listened to music. I tweeted. A lot. lol. Even when I had fleeting moments of fear, I automatically said "okay, this is happening but I trust God." I reminded myself of the pain Christ endured on the cross. I remembered the spear that pierced His side when I had to have my chest all abscess drained. I offered things up for the souls in purgatory as well as friends going through rough times. I made myself become a "brave little toaster" and I faced all those fears straight with God in mind. "I can do this" and "I trust in Him" have been the mantras that have kept me going. That and remembering that I have a handsome little godson who needs his godmother to be strong and not give up.

After going through the spiritual desert at the beginning of last month, followed by temptations and experiencing a rough period of loneliness, going an intense attack literally a day or two before the abscess nonsense began, and then going through (almost) a month of dealing physical medical issues I've had people tell me that they think I've been going through some sort of spiritual attack. I actually talked about it with my spiritual director and we're not dismissing it, especially with how random and sudden some of these things happened... and in succession. If that's the case, I'm just glad that my faith has remained intact.

My faith has not wavered during the last two months of what I've gone through. If anything, I feel like it's pulled me closer to God. Every moment of "suffering" (again, I use the word with quotations because what I've gone through isn't even close to the suffering other people go through on a daily basis) has just reminded me of how wonderfully loving and merciful God is. I know He doesn't rejoice in seeing me go through pain and everything else. Yet, He hasn't and will never abandon me and that's so comforting.

When I had the two surgical procedures done, I envisioned Mama Mary at my head, St. Therese on my right side, and Bl. Pier Giorgio on my left side. My imagination is rich enough that I could picture it into my mind to help me through it. During the last surgical procedure, I even pictured Sts. Cosmas and Damian (twin saint physicians who are the patrons of doctors) on either side of the doctor who performed the procedure. I held onto my rosary for the first one and I had it in my pocket for the second since I help the doctor for the second one. I never failed to wear either my brown scapular or my Miraculous Medal. It's been my faith that has kept me going... and will continue to help me during my recovery time.

I sincerely believe (as does my spiritual director, apparently) that all this has been preparing me for something bigger and better in my near future. Whether that be career, school, and/or vocation (big V vocation, that is) related, I don't know. But the fact that I've had to face my biggest fears seemingly all at once has to be for a reason. Maybe God wants me to see that I'm stronger that I've thought. Maybe He is preparing me for career that will have me stepping out of my comfort zone... something that I would've used anxiety as an excuse not to explore. Maybe He is preparing me for marriage and motherhood, helping me see that I can not only take care of myself during some rough times but also other people when in the past I've had the mentality that, because I was sick, I was basically useless to everyone. Whatever it is, I am truly grateful to have gone through everything. These past two months have taught me to not only believe in myself but to have confidence and trust in Him and others.

I'm sorry for writing to much but I just really wanted to share this with y'all. :) Don't worry, I'm pretty sure I'm done talking about this for a while. lol. I seem to be on the mend so all I'm going to focus on now (besides finishing the antibiotic and resting) is the start of grad school next month. :)

To everyone who has prayed for me during this crazy summer (see? I told y'all in May that summer is usually the worst time for me), I just wanted to say a huge "thank you!" Thank you for the prayers, the support, the love, the encouraging words... just, everything. I know I already said that and apologized for the crazy amount of tweets but I still wanted to do it again.

I hope everyone has a great weekend, especially those who are starting classes next week... or have started the semester this week. :D

As always, thanks for reading and God bless. :D

Saturday, August 15, 2015

A Massive "Sorry" and "Thank You!"

Before I begin, let me just apologize profusely for the amount of tweets and updates I've been giving over social media over the past two weeks. I'm really, really sorry but that's how I cope with my anxiety. To avoid panic attacks (which, miraculously, has been under control) I have to talk about whatever can potentially cause a panic attack. I promise to try to go back to my normal tweeting habits.

If you're following me on Twitter you most likely know why I haven't been blogging for the past 2 weeks; lots and lots of E.R. trips. None have been serious (thank goodness!) but it's been a pain overall.

There is so much but I'll try to condense the basics into a paragraph. Okay... here we go: basically, I've been in the E.R. about 5 times in two weeks. I ended up with 3 abscesses almost at the same time. Apparently I got a contagious skin infection from somewhere (doctor said you could get it anywhere, including furniture). Most likely, I got it from somewhere like a grocery store cart or a chair somewhere because I don't really go out much. Yeah, germophobes are cringing right now. After the first one popped, it spread to my chin/jaw area and then to my lower chest area. I had to get them both surgically drained, two weeks apart. The first 3 E.R. visits were because my doctor had no openings for appointments. Really, there was no option but to go to the E.R. because it was something that couldn't wait. First I had to get the second abscess drained, then repacked, and then checked out one last time. Fourth E.R. visit was because the last abscess (on my chest wall) burst after I took antibiotic and once it burst, it needed to be drained. Last E.R. visit was because I kept fainting and because I felt like I was choking when I ate and even when I drank water. Those are the basics.

We think we have explanations for the reasons why I was in the E.R. the last time. The fainting seems to be a delayed reaction the sight of blood and to the pain I feel. The first time I almost completely blacked out was after I got home from the E.R. and I had seen the amount of blood I was losing. The second time was shortly after I changed the wound dressing. Yesterday I was blacking out again after they repacked the wound at the doctor's office because the pain had been so intense that I guess I couldn't handle it. I didn't stand up for more than like 5 minutes before I went down. I have to go back and get the wound checked and possibly repacked at the hospital's wound care department next week but I'm going to ask for some sort of numbing or pain killer because I really don't enjoy fainting. lol.

Before anyone asks, they checked the blood work -- everything is perfect. It's the first time my platelets are in normal range in years. Red and white blood count (and hemoglobin) are within normal range. I'm solid there so it's not like I'm fainting due to anemia (yay, no more anemia!) or losing too much blood. It's simply that I can't handle seeing large amounts of blood or the pain.

As for the choking sensation, it looks like it's really, really bad acid reflux. After they gave me Maalox at the E.R., I felt better. The choking sensation, the shortness of breath, and the chest pressure alleviated. I've been dealing with that (shortness and breath and chest pressure) for about 2 months now but I couldn't get a doctor's appointment. I literally waited 3 months before I could see my primary doctor last Friday because the new healthcare rules gave doctors a cap for patients. My childhood doctor (whom we paid out of pocket to see) gave me a referral to the gastro department at the hospital so they can get it checked out. He said medication can only mask symptoms and not get down to the actual cause. He was unhappy with my regular doctor (who is technically a nurse practitioner) for not doing anything else. He's worried about my weight loss. I've lost about 6 lbs in less than 2 months; which means I'm a bit underweight again. I'm about 5'7" so 115 lbs is slightly under the 118 lbs minimum for my height. The reason for my weight loss is because, despite being super hungry, I feel like I can't breathe when I eat. That is a big problem. Also, sometimes I'm at the hospital for 13+ hours and they don't allow me to eat so... hello, unwelcomed weight loss. Hopefully I'll be able to get an appointment to gastro soon.

So that's pretty much all. Just a lot of things to deal with at once. I think I should be on the mend now. The current wound doesn't hurt as much anymore. I've been able to move more today. The chin/jaw wound is pretty much healed, the scar can be seen. All I have to deal with now is making sure the current wound is dressed clean every day. Hopefully I won't need repacking on Monday but the doctor warned me that it most likely will. As for the other stuff, I'm on a very bland diet but have been eating without problems over the last two days so we're making progress there. Slow and steady, my friends.

I wanted to thank everyone for the overwhelming amount of love, prayers, and supportive words that I've received over the past two weeks. I honestly feel like it's because of your prayers that I've been able to remain calm and have courage through everything I've been through the past couple of weeks. People I don't even know -- or barely know through social media -- have been praying for me and it makes me teary eyed. I'm tearing up as I write this out. I have no idea what I've done to deserve such love and compassion but I'm truly grateful to everyone for everything they've done for me.

So that's it... for now. I really want to get into how my faith played a big role in my being able to cope with everything these past two weeks but I'll save that for next time. I don't want to post too much at once. :)

Alright, well, I have to go pick up mom from work and then get some groceries (in 100+ degree weather... oy...) because we're out.

I hope y'all have a great weekend and a great feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary! :D

As always, thanks for reading and God bless! :D